OAKLAND, Calif. — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr placed his right hand on defensive end Khalil Mack‘s left shoulder as a show of solidarity during the national anthem before the team’s 24-21 exhibition loss to the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday night.
Carr said the players were not “protesting” anything with the action.
“What we wanted to do was show all the kids that look up to me, look up to him, that white kids, blue kids, brown kids, blue, green, doesn’t matter, can all be loving to each other,” Carr said. “And that’s what me and Khalil are — we’re best friends and we love one another.
“The only reason we did that is to unify people, and to unify the people that look up to us because, obviously, we see what’s going on in the world and, obviously, everyone pays attention to the national anthem nowadays, and so we just said this was the best time to do it while still honoring our country. Because I love this country, more than anything. We’re free to live here and play this game, but we’re also free to show each other that we love one another. And I think that that’s the message, and that’s the only message we were trying to get out.”
Mack said he wanted to use his “platform” to get out his message.
“To show [that] different races can get along, white, black, whatever you are, get along and be friends and … just show unity,” Mack said. “Show togetherness. It’s discussed a lot. It’s one of the things I feel passionately about, but I just don’t like the attention, the attention that comes with it. But at the same time, just using my platform for positivity is what’s important for me.”
Carr, who grew up in Texas and California and played his college ball at Fresno State, said he and Mack, who grew up in South Florida and played collegiately at Buffalo, knew eyes would be on them as leaders of the team during the anthem.
“We wanted to show them that it’s OK for a white kid and a black kid that come from two different neighborhoods [can] grow up and love one another and be best friends,” Carr said.
Still, Carr, the Raiders’ second-round draft pick in 2014 after Oakland selected Mack in the first round, said he was not a politician or a spokesperson. He just wanted love to be the message.
The gesture seemed to echo actions seen by other players around the league. Eagles defensive end Chris Long placed his hand on the shoulder of safety Malcolm Jenkins as he held a raised fist during the anthem in Philadelphia on Thursday night. Seattle Seahawks center Justin Britt put his arm on teammate Michael Bennett‘s shoulder Friday night, days after Bennett had called for a white player to join the protest.
Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, who sat on a cooler during the anthem last week in Arizona, again remained seated Saturday. He did not answer a question on why he sat last week and left the locker room without commenting Saturday night.
Raiders rookie safety Shalom Luani also took a knee at the beginning of the anthem and then stood before the song ended. He said he was merely praying and it was not meant as a protest.
“It never even crossed my mind,” Luani said. “There was nothing to it. Just praying.”